Brenda Dortman and Francis Casey were heartbroken when after their 12-week scan they were told their baby tot likely wouldn’t survive, despite the ‘odds being stacked’ against them, months later baby Frankie was born
Image: Family photo)
Two parents have described their heartache after a 12-week scan on their unborn baby revealed the tot likely wouldn’t survive birth.
Brenda Dortman and Francis Casey were told their baby had a number of chromosome abnormalities, meaning he was developing with his organs outside his body, and likely would suffer from Down’s syndrome.
They were given the option of terminating their pregnancy, Belfast Live reports.
But they wanted to take the risk and give the baby the best chance of survival despite the “odds being stacked” against them.
Now baby Frankie is “thriving” back home with his loved ones after months of struggles that saw the Coalisland family overcome countless hurdles.
She explained: “We found out about Frankie’s abnormalities at our 12 week scan, an exomphalos major was detected.
“Exomphalos is an abdominal wall defect where some of his organs are on the outside. In Frankie’s case it’s his liver and bowel that we know of to date.
“Exomphalos is often associated with chromosome abnormalities like Edwards, Downs and Patau syndrome.
“In our case, the medical professionals were almost certain Frankie had Edwards syndrome and we were told Edwards babies don’t live very long after birth, therefore we were often offered the option to terminate.”
After multiple procedures, they drew fluid from baby Frankie, via Brenda’s stomach, and found them negative for Edwards, Downs and Patau syndrome.
But there were further complications ahead.
She said: “At our 20-week scan congenital heart disease was detected as well as a VSD heart defect, also known as a hole in the heart.
“We thankfully continued with the pregnancy despite the odds stacked against us, the fear was unbelievable.
“We prayed day and night and I think everyone in the town that knew about our situation was praying for Frankie.”
Despite everything, and all the odds stacked against him, baby Frankie was born at full term on May 17, 2021 at the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast, weighing 7lb 11oz.
He spent 27 days between the Neonatal and High dependency unit where Brenda described the care he received as ‘exceptional’.
He was then moved across the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where she described the doctors and nurses as “real life superheroes”.
The mum-of-two admits she and partner Francis, 38, felt helpless on a number of occasions during those early months watching their son’s battle, as well as feeling guilty about being away from older son Conán, 14.
She said: “It’s the worst feeling in the world seeing your child lying there and there’s nothing you can do except sit back and wait. Your full trust is in the team.”
Brenda continued: “It was a long haul traveling up and down from Dungannon every day and it was hard on us all, especially our other son Conan.
“He missed out on a whole summer with us and I had constant mum guilts for trying and wanting to be in two places at once, but we got through it.”
Almost four long months, Frankie was allowed home to his family on September 15, 2021, a day Brenda said they ‘will never forget’.
Today, Frankie is ‘thriving’ at 10 months old and is overcoming obstacles daily.
“He has come such a long way, he’s thriving,” said Brenda.
“We are slowly weaning onto solid foods which is going well-considering Frankie left the hospital with severe oral aversion and is still bad with reflux.
“Frankie has also started to drink from a cup and as of a few weeks ago is now only oxygen-dependent during the night.
“Frankie, in general, is such a joy. A very well behaved and happy child despite all his abnormalities, medical needs and everything he’s been through.
“He is a real people person and loves people chatting to him. He is at the babbling stage now and it’s great to see.
“He has just brought so much joy to our lives, added Brenda.
Describing the care and support they received during Frankie’s time in hospital as ‘exceptional’, the Dungannon based family now want to give something back and have embarked on a fundraising mission for two charities close to their heart.
The family are hosting a huge fundraising day on Saturday, July 2 where a group of 60 people to date are climbing Slieve Donard for Frankie followed by a disco fundraiser in Clonoe hall, Coalisland that night.
If you would like to support ‘Frankie’s Fight’ you can donate via the Just Giving page or follow the instagram-page here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.